TORONTO - Canada's biggest banks have been plucking away at the U.S. market this month, and with both TD Bank and Bank of Montreal having already made recent acquisitions, some analysts expect Royal Bank will be next.
Desjardins Securities analyst Michael Goldberg believes Royal Bank (TSX:RY) could make an acquisition of a noticeable size to bolster its existing operations in the southeastern United States.
Earlier this month, both TD Bank (TSX:TD) and BMO (TSX:BMO) expanded their U.S. operations in co-operation with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
"Ultimately this may mean that these stars-align type of conditions provide an opportunity for (Royal) to do something that would be perhaps considerably more substantial, but at the same time more dilutive," Goldberg said Monday in an interview.
In a recent note, Goldberg pegged three southeastern U.S. banks as prime candidates: BB&T, headquartered in North Carolina, Regions Financial Corp. in Alabama, and SunTrust Banks Inc. in Georgia.
Royal Bank executives have taken a cautious approach to U.S. acquisitions saying that while they aren't looking, they're still open to any attractive opportunities. However, with both TD and BMO picking up assets, investors are placing their bets that a deal won't be too far away.
On Friday, BMO Financial Group (TSX:BMO) acquired Illinois-based Amcore Bank N.A. for an undisclosed amount in a deal with the FDIC. A week earlier, TD Bank (TSX:TD) picked up the assets and liabilities of three Florida-based banks under a risk-sharing agreement with the FDIC.
Edward Jones analyst Craig Fehr agreed Royal Bank could be the next to make a move.
"If the opportunity presented itself to do one of these type of lower-risk deals with the FDIC, I think they would be open to the opportunity," he said.
"I think RBC has the least amount of urgency in terms of doing an acquisition relative to what I think their strategy is more focused, on, which is improving the profitability and efficiency of the existing banking operations."
However, investors appeared to be placing their bets on RBC making a move sooner than later, briefly sending Royal Bank shares to an all-time high Monday.
Canada's biggest bank saw its common stock (TSX:RY) rise to an intraday high of $62.25, before the shares gave up some of their gains to close at $62.20, up 47 cents, still above the previous 52-week high.
Genuity Capital Markets Mario Mendonca suggested that while much attention is being paid to Royal making a move, he believes there's a good chance either TD Bank or BMO could return to the FDIC could a swing at further assets.
He believes TD is most likely to go back for more.
"TD's objective is to look across the eastern seaboard - they've got (banks) across the northeast and the southeast, I think they'd like to fill out what's in between," Mendonca said.
"They sound sufficiently ambitious to grow their U.S. business, and if other deals like this came along they would be there."
FDIC spokesman Greg Hernandez declined to say whether any of the Canadian banks are poking around for further acquisitions, though he noted that interest appears to be growing for U.S. banking assets.
"As U.S. economic conditions are improving, the FDIC is seeing greater competition for these failed institutions," he said.